85% of IT and business decision-makers believe that the cloud will be an essential or vital part of their digital transformation (DX) strategy. Whether this is the Cloud we all know or more of a hybrid cloud. Cloud computing is predicted to increase from $67 billion in 2015 to $162 billion in 2020. Cloud readiness will shape companies’ agendas in 2018 and beyond. However, implementing strategies for DX is fraught with risk. Particularly while simultaneously accelerating the delivery of new applications. Or even with services to customers.

Hybrid and Multi-cloud momentum

This year we saw an increasing number of businesses moving their applications to the cloud. This trend looks set to continue. To support cloud strategies, more and more organisations will seek to adopt a multi-cloud approach. They will utilise a mix of cloud services from different providers, such as AWS and Microsoft Azure. According to research from Microsoft and 451 Research, nearly a third of companies worked with four plus cloud vendors in 2016. Multi-cloud environments enable businesses to mitigate risks while leveraging different advantages from each provider. This number looks set to increase as organisations continue to wake up to the benefits of multi-cloud.

Research from MarketsandMarkets revealed that the hybrid cloud market is predicted to grow to $91.74 billion by 2021.Click To Tweet

In 2018, we expect the increased adoption of multiple clouds to be supported by surging momentum for hybrid cloud solutions. Public clouds are used to supplement existing on-premises and private cloud infrastructure. Research from MarketsandMarkets revealed that the hybrid cloud market is predicted to grow to $91.74 billion by 2021. This is up from $33.28 billion in 2016, highlighting its vast growth potential.

Visibility underpinning business success

This increased hybrid cloud adoption will, in turn, drive further changes for businesses. As an increasing amount of data will need to travel back and forth over the wide area network, Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) will become a critical consideration. By using an SD-WAN approach, organisations will be able to reduce CAPAX and OPEX. They’ll also be able to intelligently manage traffic flows and gain real-time analytics. These can then be turned into meaningful and actionable insights.

Also, as a growing number of businesses look to leverage cloud technologies, we expect to see more emphasis placed on visibility overall. Consider continuous end-to-end visibility across datacenters, WAN, branch offices, cloud and SaaS environments. With a 360 view of business services, it will allow IT to quickly identify current or potential problems and rapidly resolve them. Network outages cost large enterprises an average of $60 million a year. With businesses and lives becoming increasingly reliant on connectivity, companies know that there can’t afford to be an “off.” To maintain a competitive edge both next year and in the future, they must ensure they have full visibility across their entire infrastructure, including both off-premise and on-premise cloud environments.

However, next year we expect assuring networks to become even more challenging. This is as IoT adoption across different verticals leads to edge computing being used to complement cloud computing. As a result, the service delivery infrastructure will become more distributed. In turn pushing the limits of scalability and real-time analytics for security and assurance.

Harnessing smart data

In 2018, we are therefore likely to witness an increasing number of organisations adopt a smart data approach. This enables them to obtain a top-down, detailed picture of the hybrid IT environment. They can then truly understand applications and service availability, reliability and responsiveness. This enables them to troubleshoot service issues, both in real-time and back-in-time. Applications and services leveraging innovative technologies like cloud and IoT are only as good as the visibility IT teams have of the entire delivery infrastructure, and so by focusing on investment and understanding service and application dependencies, businesses will be able to dramatically mitigate risk.

Intersection of public and private

Another key trend we anticipate will arise next year is traditional vendors of on-premise virtualisation technologies, such as VMware, looking to extend their infrastructure into the cloud. In 2017, we already saw movement in this direction, with VMware and AWS expanding their partnership and enabling VMware vSphere-based applications to run on AWS infrastructure. Public cloud providers, on the other hand, will continue trying to extend their services to an on-premises environment with solutions such as the Azure Stack appliance that lets enterprises run their own Azure instances on-premises, thus further blurring the lines between public and private cloud.

Cloud shaping business agendas

With over one-third of IT professionals naming ‘moving faster’ as their top goal for next year, more and more businesses will look to leverage the cloud to improve service agility and flexibility.

In 2017, we saw disruptive vendors continue to showcase the huge potential the cloud can bring. As we look ahead to 2018, and a growing number of businesses harness virtualisation, software-defined technologies and public cloud to drive innovation, improve efficiencies and enhance the customer experience, the year ahead will quickly become the year of the hybrid cloud.

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Michael Segal is director of solutions marketing at NetScout  As Area Vice President Strategy at NETSCOUT, Michael is responsible for developing and executing strategic and content marketing plans. As part of an agile marketing organisation these activities include situation analysis, differentiation, positioning, messaging, content creation and continuous improvement based on the feedback loop from the paid, earned, shared, and owned (PESO) channels metrics. Michael's technical areas of expertise include SaaS/Cloud, virtualization, Mobile IP, security, IP networking, Wi-Fi/wireless, VoIP and remote access. Michael holds patents in areas of networking and wireless mobility.